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Notes on the Geography of Sri Lanka: Kadugannawa and Balana

Kaduganawa and Balana are stations--one on the highway, one on the railroad--at the mountain wall separating the lowlands from the Kandyan Highlands. 

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Sri Lanka: Kadugannawa and Balana picture 1

Here's the highway view at the top of the descent, although the camera has been artfully positioned to avoid the roadside.

Sri Lanka: Kadugannawa and Balana picture 2

A more honest picture would be like this. 

Sri Lanka: Kadugannawa and Balana picture 3

The most striking feature of the road itself is this tunnel.  You're not looking at a switchback; instead you're looking at the original British road, with the tunnel, and a new road, which bypasses it. 

Sri Lanka: Kadugannawa and Balana picture 4

The "tunnel" is so short that it begs the question: why didn't the British just blast it.  Answer: the tunnel was created to fulfill the Kandyan prophecy that their kingdom would never fall until the mountains were tunneled.  And so the British went out of their way to include a tunnel on the road--a fine example of civil engineering as a psychological weapon. 

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Another symbol, in this case commemorating Captain William Dawson, who designed the road.  He "had charge of the construction of the original road up the Pass, which for 40 years before the railway was completed was the only means of access to the mountain district from the north and west.  The road was constructed in 1822.  Prior to that time there were only two roads even in the Maritime Provinces...  As to the Central Province, it was altogether inaccessible to any but hill climbers."  Dawson died of dysentery a few years later, in 1829, while surveying the Mannar channel in the north of the island. "The poor fellow died in my arms.  The whole Island mourned him... Sir Edward Barnes had, notwithstanding Dawson's junior rank, selected him for the position of C.R.E.[Commanding Royal Engineer] which was a Colonel's command, for Sir Edward knew from his Peninsular experience of him the great merit Dawson possessed as an officer."  The monument was erected a few years later. (Quotation from Thomas Skinner, Fifty Years in Ceylon, 1891, p. 93.

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The caption at its base.

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Above the station: and a few miles to the north: paddy and tea, with detached peaks rising along the line of the mountain wall, which drops off to the west, on the left.

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A wall at the small Balana Fort, which was less a fortress than a lookout point surveying the lowlands and the approaches to the highlands.

Sri Lanka: Kadugannawa and Balana picture 9

A country road snakes down to the railroad, mid-ascent here.

Sri Lanka: Kadugannawa and Balana picture 10

The railway groans uphill at Balana Station. There's a 1:45 grade here for 12 miles, as the track rises from 313 to 1698 feet.

Sri Lanka: Kadugannawa and Balana picture 11

Old signals.

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Old signal controls, too, but immaculately kept. 

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Across the track, there's a tea stand.

Sri Lanka: Kadugannawa and Balana picture 14

Locals congregate.


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